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If you spend a bit of time in Japan and go out for drinks every now and then, you'll start to notice that a lot of people will beforehand, drink this stuff- it's called "Ukon no Chikara!"
Ukon no Chikara.
You can find it at almost any convenient store, and sometimes Japanese izakayas will sell them at the front desk or let you order it from the menu.
An izakaya is like a pub or a bar.
Ukon no Chikara means "turmeric power.”
It's supposed to prevent you from getting a hangover.
When I was going to University in Tokyo, I participated in a lot of Nomikais - Nomi means drink, Kai means meeting.
Basically drinking parties.
As someone who's naturally weak when it comes to alcohol, over the years, I drank a lot of these ukon no chikaras.
So what's in it, and does it even work?
Well, in every bottle, there's 30 milligrams of curcumin, a compound found in turmeric.
And, curcumin has been shown to have all kinds of health benefits.
In 2012, Subash Gupta and colleagues published an article about the Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin.
The article is very thorough, citing over a hundred studies and lists what dosage had what specific outcome in trying to ameliorate what disease.
The study says: "Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and 23 other diseases are listed here.
Initially, turmeric having benefit for all these different diseases sounds kind of ridiculous, but these are all pro-inflammatory diseases.
And the curcumin found in turmeric is a very powerful anti-inflammatory.
So, what about hangovers: The study says that curcumin has also shown protection against liver conditions, chronic arsenic exposure, and alcohol intoxication.
So, If we go down to table 1 and look for Alcohol Intoxication, we find that a single dose of just 30 milligrams of curcumin inhibited alcohol intoxication.
That happens to be the same amount in each bottle of ukon no chikara.
Let's go to citation 73 to see which study talks about this.
And of course, it was published by a Japanese team.
In this article from 2011, they gave subjects a solution of curcumin where the particle size has been drastically reduced to improve bioavailability - to improve the absorption of the curcumin.
They found that this curcumin solution significantly reduced the amount of acetaldehyde in the blood after alcohol consumption.
Acetaldehyde is a toxic byproduct of ethanol or alcohol metabolism.
Acetaldehyde is some 10 to 30 times as toxic as alcohol itself.
It's one of the ways drinking alcohol makes you feel like crap and gives you a hangover.
Some people, predominantly East Asians, have a mutation in their alcohol dehydrogenase gene, which makes them convert ethanol to acetaldehyde unusually fast.
And, they break acetaldehyde down more slowly, leading to a very high concentration of acetaldehyde.
Some estimates say 6 times as much as normal.
And this leads to something known as the alcohol flush reaction, where people's neck and face turn quite red.
This is more commonly known as the "Asian Flush.”
OK, so curcumin reduces acetaldehyde, making alcohol metabolism less toxic, so you have less of a chance of getting a hangover, or at least it won't be as bad.
But, to be honest, for me it was never really clear if the ukon no chikara drink even did anything.
And it's probably because I wasn't effectively absorbing those 30 mg of curcumin.
This is because your liver seems to treat curcumin like it would a foreign substance, so it doesn't absorb it very well.
When you consume curcumin on its own, there is only a tiny rise in the levels in your bloodstream.
This very low absorption rate is the problem the study I mentioned earlier tried to solve by reducing the particle size.
But, there's an easier way to absorb curcumin more effectively.
Just take it with some black pepper.
A compound in black pepper called piperine inhibits the process in the liver that hinders curcumin absorption.
This study found that curcumin bioavailability went up 2000% , just by consuming a quarter of a teaspoon of black pepper along with it.
You can also add a bit of good fat and apply some heat to the turmeric to further improve absorption of the curcumin.
Adding fat to the mix helps the curcumin to be absorbed directly because it's fat soluble, so if you take it with fat, it will be processed through the lymphatic system, helping to bypass the liver.
And heat also seems to improve the effects of curcumin.
This study found that getting the turmeric hot by adding it to people's food while cooking had much better effects than just taking it in capsule form.
If we look at the ingredients in Ukon no Chikara it has high fructose corn syrup, autumn turmeric extract, salt, thickening agent, coloring, fragrance, sweetener, inositol, more sweetener, then vitamin B6, B1 and B2, and emulsifier.
So it doesn't really look like there's anything in here to help with the absorption of the curcumin.
This is probably why I didn't have any luck with it, but to be fair, back then I was drinking a lot of alcohol - I would have 3 drinks within the first hour of a Friday night, but nowadays I'll have maybe 3 drinks per month.
Recently my brother came to visit and we celebrated his birthday with some beers.
My tolerance for alcohol is much lower now that I rarely drink, so I was expecting the beers we had to give me a hangover.
So I tried taking a couple grams of ground turmeric with black pepper and the next morning felt surprisingly ...normal.
A couple weeks after that I had the chance to put turmeric to the test again, and I had more surprisingly positive results.
It's not magic, but it was substantial - much better results than I ever had drinking one of these.
Personally, I've found 3 grams of ground turmeric with about a gram of black pepper has some pretty impressive effects- not just to mitigate hangovers, but anti-inflammatory effects as well.
You can mix the turmeric and black pepper with hot water just off a boil and some coconut milk and cinnamon, and it's pretty good.
Then again, you can use whatever healthy fat you want.
You could eat some macadamia nuts or an avocado along with the turmeric and black pepper in hot tea.
With the holidays and holiday parties coming up, I figured it would be good to share this.
Even if you don't like the taste of curry, it's worth trying.
It won't allow you to drink infinite alcohol of course, but you might wake up feeling better than you did last year.
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The Japanese Hangover Drink - Turmeric Power

107 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on October 31, 2019
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